Sunday, February 08, 2009

Straighten up and sit right

Review of some top ergonomic chairs ...

"Didn't your mother ever tell you to sit up straight?

That advice is echoed by Karen Jacobs, a board certified ergonomist, occupational therapist, and clinical professor at Boston University who spends her time showing people how to avoid office injuries.

"When sitting, it is very easy to slump into a posture which significantly changes the shape of the spine and drastically increases the pressure on the intervertebral discs in the low back," according to Jacobs's research. "Slumping posture can result in low back pain and, over a prolonged period of time, can cause more serious back problems."

However, no matter how much you try to sit right, sometimes it's not how you sit but what you sit in that matters. So the Globe tested four office chairs designed with the utmost in comfort and ergonomics in mind. We tested the Humanscale Freedom at $1,300, the Herman Miller Embody at $1,600, the Sealy Posturepedic High Back Executive Chair at $269.99, and Staples Inc.'s Acadia Multifunction Mesh Task Chair at $159.99. The first two are generally available through direct order or at specialty stores.

"Many office chairs have traditional, padded, fixed-height lumbar supports that are unlikely to provide a comfortable or appropriate seat for people of various body types," Jacobs said. Translation: a good, healthy chair will be more adjustable and allow you to manipulate it to suit your needs.

Jacobs doesn't endorse a particular brand of product, and we really had a hard time deciding between Humanscale and Herman Miller, two companies that seem to compete like Coke and Pepsi. In the end, after sitting in the chairs in front of our ergonomic keyboards typing away, we went with the Humanscale and its supportive headrest as the best option.

Jacobs's research says you put more pressure on your joints and lower back when you're sitting for a long time, as opposed to standing. Sitting increases the risk of lower-back pain and compresses the discs in your spine. When you slump, the pressure on your spine is drastically increased and can cause serious problems down the road.

Most chairs you'll find in an office have traditional lower-back support, but one of the major problems is that people often fail to adjust even good ergonomic chairs to best fit their body type.

Adjust your chair so you're sitting up straight. A good chair should contour to your body and not put any excess pressure on your back, rear, thighs, or knees.

The two in-store chairs were decent. The Staples Acadia mesh chair was better than the cushy Sealy chair. The Acadia reminded us of the $1,000 Humanscale Liberty Chair we also tried out. Both chairs are mesh-backed and lean back easily and smoothly.

We did worry about the long-term viability of both cheap chairs being able to stand up to constant sitting. We feared they'd break eventually. The other chairs felt sturdier.

In response, Staples spokeswoman Amy Shanler said the company stands behind its branded products. "We put these chairs through intense testing so we can stand behind our brand and customers know they can count on our quality."

The Sealy chair is also a Staples exclusive, but is licensed by Sealy and built by Chairworks. "We go through strict testing programs with Staples to make sure product is completely up to their standards," said Peter Ravn, the vice president of sales and marketing for Chairworks."    (Continued via The Boston Globe)    [Ergonomics Resources]

High-end Ergonomic Chairs - Ergonomics

High-end Ergonomic Chairs

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Anonymous Brian said...

One of the key components I often find missing and sadly unknown by many chair manufacturers and ergo guides is that the body was designed for a natural hip angle of 130 degrees, not the standard right angle of a chair. You don't sit upright in your chair for long periods of time because you can't. Your hips keep trying to open themselves from the locked in right angle, so you lean back. Of course then you compensate by jutting your head forward out of line and rounding your spine. Opening up the seat angle automatically restores the curve in the lower back and makes sitting upright much easier. Fancy chair backs treat the symptoms rather than the underlying causes of poor posture.

10:22 PM  

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